The C word. No, not Covid!
Every business, in every part of the world, is talking about culture right now. You can’t open a social channel, news feed, inbox or even have a business conversation without talking about it. Without a doubt it is the most overused word in business circles right now. It was a pre-Covid hot button topic, but its been put on steroids ever since centralisation of teams was stripped away as the world started to bunker down at home. The hardest thing about culture when you are a small or medium business (1 – 300 employees) is just that. That it is hard.
Developing a real, tangible culture and then maintaining it on an ongoing basis requires enormous effort from managers, team members and third party stakeholders – even clients and customers. The most obvious business case for a strong culture is employee retention and therefore lower church costs. But we’ve been thinking more lately around the commercial ramifications of a strong cultural offering client side.
As a supplier to a business, how can your cultural offering add value to your pitch, and ultimately improve your bottom line? For this we can offer a few working examples from within our business.
We’ve recently been working on a technology solution with a client who has a cracking business and a fast moving, growth focussed mind set from an organisational perspective. But one of the challenges they have had is identifying the right technology solutions and partners, and most importantly scaling those up to meet their needs on a longer term basis. Through the tendering processes our client service team has been working closer than ever with our technology team. We’ve been looking at existing tech stacks, understanding code, identifying weak points for improvement, developing ways forward. And in the world of tech discussions can take a minute or a month, and can represent a dollar or a million dollars – there’s that much in the variables.
Our internal culture has really shone for us through the process. Our developers have brought truth to the table in conversations even when the truth isn’t the most comfortable conversation to have. We’ve constructively critique each others point of view, and we’ve built ideas and solutions on the fly, right through the briefing process.
This, wherever possible, has been on display to our client partner.
The value here is that they have seen ‘under the hood’. They know that at the end of the day people are our secret sauce, not magic, and people buy from people. We’re able to talk with our client on how to structure longevity in technology solutions, how to partner two organisations so closely together that they operate as one and share the pain as well as the wins.
These types of detailed, transparent discussions simply can’t be had when businesses such as ours operate as closed books, or where they have teams that have internal in-fighting and politics. There’s so much inefficiency in that type of arrangement that it is not possible to move at speed and agility with the client’s actual best interests at heart from the start.
While we’ve always known our culture has massive value to our team, and we’ve even known the value it adds to our clients internally, we’ve started to explore more around what it means to share that culture openly and transparently with our clients. This really does become a tangible unique selling point that allows you to create differentiation in a crowded marketplace. And let’s face it – there isn’t a market or corner of the business world that isn’t crowded these days!